EXCLUSIVE TV Goodness Q&A: Breaking Bad’s Charles Baker Talks Playing Skinny Pete [INTERVIEW + Preview]
We are so excited for the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad. To help ease us into what is sure to be a wild ride to the finish, TV Goodness talked exclusively to Skinny Pete’s Charles Baker. He discussed how he got the role, what it’s been like to play this character for the last six years, and the projects he’s got coming up.
TVGOODNESS: How did you hear about this role and tell me a little bit about the audition process.
Charles Baker: “It was actually a unique kind of situation. I was taking acting classes, or auditioning classes really, from a casting director in Dallas, TX. She was originally slated to start doing pre-casting for Breaking Bad when FX was considering it. So she had the scripts and when FX pulled out she thought the show wasn’t going. She was using the original Breaking Bad pilot as an acting exercise for her class so I had kind of become familiar with some of the characters already. When AMC picked it up and the same casting director was asked to cast locally along with the New Mexico casting director, they luckily called me in to read for a skinny stoner. There were originally three characters they wanted. They wanted a skinny stoner, a tattooed stoner, and a chubby stoner. I went in and read for the skinny stoner the first time and a couple days later I got a call back to come back and read again. But they’d changed the scripts and now it was just a skinny stoner and a chubby stoner. All of the tattooed stoner’s lines had been kind of mixed between the two and so when I saw that they’d combined the tattooed and the skinny I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this.’ I’m a little of both and so I just went in and did my thing and luckily they liked me enough to bring me in and that’s kind of snowballed into Skinny Pete.
TVGOODNESS: When did they ask you to come back? When did it become clear that they wanted more Skinny Pete?
Charles: “Well, I’ll be honest it was never really clear that I was gonna be coming back for as along as I have. They called me back almost a week later after my first episode to do another episode. They’d usually let me know 3 or 4 days, sometimes a week in advance. They’d call up and say, ‘Are you available?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah’ and they go, ‘Ok, then we’ve got an episode for you.’ That was pretty much how it’s been for the last six years.”
TVGOODNESS: How’s it been working with Aaron Paul and how’s been it been on set with everybody?Â
Charles: “Aaron Paul is just, he’s an amazing kid really. It’s weird. I play a 29 year-old as Skinny Pete and in reality I’m 42. And so between Badger, Matt Jones, Aaron and I, I was the old man. I was already married, I have kids but as far as working in this business I was the new guy. So we had this weird relationship where I was looking to them for professional guidance and I think I helped them a little bit with their relationship issues and now both of them are married. But we’ve had lots of conversations about love and marriage when we weren’t on camera and I think itÂ was a neat little dichotomy we had going on.”
TVGOODNESS: You’re in the season premiere, right?
TVGOODNESS: Is there anything you’re allowed to tell us?
Charles: “I’m allowed to say it’s awesome. [Laughs.]”
TVGOODNESS: I figured. I understand it’s on lockdown and I totally get it.
TVGOODNESS: So maybe tell me about the evolution of your character and the fact that you’ve played this character for so long. Has it been fun to go back every time? Are you happy with what you’ve been able to do on the show?
Charles: “Obviously, you look at the cast list and it’s such an amazing group of actors and for someone like me who’s – I did a Walker Texas Ranger and Prison Break and a couple Movie of the Weeks, nothing really long-term – so when I got on this I was just like amazed. Just working with Bryan [Cranston]. I’d seen him make this leap from Malcolm in the Middle goofy dad to serious, seriously great actor. Seeing his gratitude for the chance that he got to do that was an eye-opener. It did really help me kind of feel like I might have a chance of getting out of being typecast as a drug addict, dope-fiend kind of character. That’s been great. Every episode I’ve done has been like a high school reunion almost. The same people have been working on the show and they all have the same love and passion for the show. So every time I go back it’s beenâ€¦ I call it a working vacation because I get away from the house but I get to go play with my friends.”
TVGOODNESS: Are there any other tidbits you can share about Breaking Bad before we talk about your other projects?
Charles: “About what’s happening? I don’t know. I’m a huge fan of the show myself and so I purposely didn’t try to find out anything that I wasn’t supposed to know anyway. They worked really hard at keeping it hush-hush, but I also worked really hard at not taking peeks at parts of the script that I had access to that I didn’t need to be privy to. I’m just as excited to see what they do with it. I’m a TV junkie myself.”
TVGOODNESS: So talk to me about NBC’sÂ The Blacklist. We’re really excited about that show.
Charles: “At the moment we’re still talking about my longevity in the show. I came in for the pilot episode just on the possibility that it might be recurring because I really liked the script and I love the cast. And it’s such a change for me. I play a character named Gray. He’s called Gray because he’s the man in the gray flannel three-piece suit. I’ve got my hair slicked back and looking nice, I’ve had a shave which is kind of rare for me on TV. I play James Spader‘s driver and confidant. I like to say if he were Batman I’d be his Alfred. I’m there for him behind the scenes, I’m his go-to guy but not the hero. It has potential I think, I hope it has potential to be a really interesting character and have a lot of depth to him. But if you’ve seen the pilot or you’ve seen the trailer, Gray is the very first person who speaks and doesn’t look anything like me. It’s so fun to be able to be in disguise like that.”
TVGOODNESS: You also have another TV project Murder in the First. Has that pilot filmed? What’s going on with that?
Charles: “Yeah. We shot that not too long ago in San Francisco, a little bit in LA but it’s set in San Francisco. I believe it’s not even officially picked up by TNT yet, but I have a really strong, good feeling about it. It probably won’t air until next year in June. It’s a really good cast. Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter – which, I’m a huge fan – I have lots of kids. He is one of the lead guest stars. It’s a Steven Bochco project and it’s kind of a procedural crime drama but this one goes a lot deep than any of them have gone before.”
TVGOODNESS: It sounds like you have a lot of interesting projects coming up.
Charles: “Yeah. There’s a whole lot of stuff. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, David Lowery’s film, I’ve got a pretty nice little role in that coming up and that’s getting a limited release from IFC sometime this month. And then To the Wonder, Terrence Malick’s film is another one that a lot of people go, ‘Hey. Did you know that Skinny Pete was in that?’ That one is a small but pivotal role. It’s kinda my thing, small but pivotal. That one’s coming out on DVD this month. So, yeah, there’s all kinds of fun going on.”
A Breaking Bad teaser trailer:
The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad air Sundays at 9/8c starting Sunday, August 11th.
Edited for space and content.
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